Why a Netflix drama has seen a boom in interest at Market Harborough Chess Club

The club secured a dramatic late win for promotion - who said chess wasn’t dramatic?

There has been a surge in popularity in chess due to Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit.
There has been a surge in popularity in chess due to Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit.

The Market Harborough Chess Club is back on board - well online - and grabbed a dramatic victory.

The club's Rene Butler takes up the story

A boom in the interest of chess has come at a key time for Market Harborough Chess Club.

Hit TV drama, The Queen’s Gambit, has taken everyone by surprise. It is the number one show on Netflix while also becoming the centre of media attention and debate. The story follows young chess prodigy Beth Harmon in 1960s America and is loosely based on former World Champion Bobby Fisher.

The show’s popularity has ignited huge interest in chess. Sales of chess sets are said to have quadrupled while online participation in the game has also skyrocketed. For the Market Harborough Club, the pandemic has played havoc with both social meetings and the league season. The latter paused since March.

Without over the board chess, five of the club’s players formed Harborough Cuatro and entered the Four Nations Chess League online, finishing seventh out of 68 teams. Playing opposition came from around England, Ireland and a team in Scotland, remarkably the club secured promotion in the last three minutes of the season.

Top points scorer Mike Garland Jr had given Harborough the lead, against a team who went by the intriguing name of ‘Cornish Killers’. After a draw and a loss, the match score was equal. Both teams needed a win to finish in the promotion places. A draw would mean both teams stayed in Division Six. All the pressure fell on new recruit Jon Redding in this final game of the final match. Against the odds Redding managed to devise a stunning combination when he looked doomed. In football terms it was similar to an injury time winner against the run of play, to gain promotion. Who said chess wasn’t dramatic?

Division Six was much stronger than anticipated, all new teams start there meaning some players are novice but many would give peak Beth Harmon trouble - they were not far off professional standard. A seventh-place finish when out-graded in most matches, is a good return.

With the Catholic Club closing in the summer, a new home has been found in The Conservative Club on Fairfield Road. Thursday evening chess meetings will resume from 7pm, when the tier three restrictions lift.

The chess club will remain apolitical, anyone is welcome to come along. The club have thanked The Conservative Club and also The Royalist on Western Avenue, who hosted a few games in August.

Please see www.Harboroughchess.org for further details.

By Rene Butler